The expenses of a suit or action which may be recovered by law from the losing party. Such allowable costs are often defined by statute or by a court's rules, and, under the American Rule, in most cases they do not include attorney fees. In England and many other nations, lawyers fees are often recoverable by the prevailing party.
At common law, neither the plaintiff nor the defendant could recover costs economic; but in all actions in which damages were recoverable, the plaintiff, in effect, recovered his costs when he obtained a verdict, for the jury always computed them in the damages. When the defendant obtained a verdict or the plaintiff became non-suit, the former was wholly without remedy for any expenses he had incurred. It is true, the plaintiff was amerced pro falso clamore suo, but the amercement was given to the king.
This defect was afterwards corrected by the statute of Gloucester by which it is enacted that 'the demandant in assise of novel disseisin, in writs of mort d'ancestor, cosinage, aiel and be sail, shall have damages. And the demandant shall have the costs of the writ purchased, together with damages, and this act shall hold place in all cases where the parly recovers damages, and every person shall render damages where land is recovered against him upon his own intrusion, or his own act.' About forty-six years after the passing of this statute, costs were for the first time allowed in France.
The statute of Gloucester has been adopted, substantially, in all the United States. Though it speaks of the costs of the writ only, it has, by construction, been extended to the costs of the suit generally. The costs which are recovered under it are such as shall be allowed by the master or prothonotary upon taxation, and not those expenses which the plaintiff may have incurred for himself, the extraordinary fees he may have paid counsel, or for the loss of his time.